Summary: Two brothers, one killer, and only one way to end the standoff.
Rated: T Word count: 684
Adam swallowed, steadied his hand, and spoke evenly, “It will be fine, Joe.”
The man at whose head Adam had his pistol pointed snickered. “You don’t expect him to believe that?” The man pressed the end of his gun against Little Joe’s temple and snickered again. “Of course, if you put down your gun, I won’t shoot your little brother.”
Adam saw the flicker of fear in his brother’s eyes and spoke soothingly, “Don’t worry, Joe, he’s not that stupid. He knows enough to understand you are the only thing standing between him and death.” Adam chilled his next words and directed them at the outlaw. “Killing my brother would be a one-way ticket to hell; make no mistake about that, Carson.”
“He would beat me there,” Carson sneered.
Adam’s smile was cold and wickedly condescending. “Never.” Adam watched Carson’s gaze focus on the gun pointed at his own head.
“Well, now, we’ll just have to see who gets tired of this standoff first.” Adam heard the barest trace of concern in Carson’s voice and sent a silent prayer heavenward.
Little Joe shifted slightly, and Carson yanked his arm back against the boy’s throat.
“Relax, Joe!” Adam’s voice was commanding but fraternal. “Just settle down. Just settle down.”
Little Joe could read his elder brother almost as well as his father and Hoss could. The barest inflections in Adam’s voice, the set of his mouth, the flicker of an eye all held meaning for Little Joe, and though Adam would have teased against the notion Little Joe obeyed his brother far more often than he disobeyed. Little Joe sent his own prayer to Jesus, God, and his angel mother. Then he forced his body to reverse itself. Instead of straining against the arm that held him, he relaxed back against Carson’s body going limp and slipping downward. Carson was surprised; Adam was not.
Adam fired. His shot was echoed by a second. Adam darted forward before the sounded had disappeared from the air.
“Joe! Joe! Are you. . . Little Joe!” Adam snatched his brother from the ground.
“I’m. . .I’m not hurt. I’m. . . “
Adam was frantically examining Little Joe with his hands and eyes, but he found no injury. Adam’s bullet had hit Carson directly between the eyes. The outlaw had been thrown back and his arm flung outward before his finger reflexively pulled the trigger of his own Colt.
“Little Joe, I. . . there was no other. . . oh, my God!” Adam buried his head against Little Joe’s curls as he clutched his brother to his chest.
“Adam! I’m not hurt! I’m not!” Little Joe managed. The he muttered, “Unless you’ve broken my ribs.”
It was his brother’s weak sarcasm that cut through Adam’s panic. He released his hold on Little Joe and sank back to sit in the dirt panting as if he had run twenty miles. Both brothers sat trying to regain control of their breathing and their thoughts.
Then Adam’s eyes flickered to the body lying sprawled beside them. His voice was a flat whisper when he spoke. “If I had laid down my gun, he. . . I knew he. . . if I had thought for a moment. . .”
Little Joe listened as his brother seemed unable to complete a sentence. “He would have killed us both,” Little Joe stated simply and with the same conviction Adam had used to make his decision.
Adam turned his eyes to his brother’s face. “If I had thought for a moment that he would let you for live for even a few minutes, I would never have risked firing. You know that don’t you?”
Adam drew in a deep breath. “Fine then. What do you say to getting up and getting home?”
“I’d say that’s the second best idea you’ve had today!”
Other Stories by this Author
- Ben’s Boy Hoss (by DJK)
- The Left-handed Holster (by DJK)
- Water Nymph (by DJK)
- A Matter of Regret (by DJK)
- When the Big Man Falls (by DJK)